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One Year Later: Catching up With Parkinson’s Foundation Research Grantee Amy W. Amara, MD, PhD

One year after the Parkinson’s Foundation awarded $500,000 in research grants to address critical unmet needs in Parkinson’s disease (PD), we check in with one of three of the researchers making a difference right now. 

Researchers were tasked with jumpstarting practical solutions to ease difficulties related to cognition, fatigue and sleep, all debilitating yet under-recognized symptoms in Parkinson’s. They have each received a grant funded through the Parkinson’s Foundation Community Choice Research Awards, the first program to set research priorities based on the insights of people living with Parkinson’s.

Impact of Exercise on Executive Function and Sleep

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Impact of Exercise on Executive Function and Sleep
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Q: Can you explain your study in less than 100 words?

A: This study evaluates the effect of exercise on cognition and sleep in people with Parkinson’s. Participants are randomly assigned a group: exercise or no exercise. Changes in cognition and sleep (measured by sleep studies) from the beginning to the end of the study are compared between the groups. Our goal is to investigate the impact of exercise on these non-motor symptoms. This is important because there are not many effective medication treatments for these symptoms. In addition, exercise has been shown to improve the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s, so it is possible that it could improve these symptoms as well.

Q: How many participants are enrolled in the study?

A: We have enrolled 20 participants per group (exercise and no exercise).

Q: What has been the most surprising thing you have learned so far in your research?

A: There can be discrepancies between subjective and objective sleep outcomes. For example, the people in the exercise group are showing significant improvement in the time and efficiency of their sleep, but they don’t necessarily report that they feel like they are sleeping better.

Q: What have been your biggest challenges?

A: Overall, this has been a fun and rewarding study! We are most appreciative of the motivation and passion demonstrated by our participants. As with all clinical studies, recruitment tends to be the biggest challenge. However, we have met our recruitment goals and are pleased with the progress of the study.

Q: What has the Parkinson’s Foundation grant helped you accomplish in your study?

A: The Parkinson’s Foundation grant has provided the funds necessary to implement and complete this study. Performing sleep studies, cognitive testing and exercise training is costly. This would not have been possible without Foundation funding.

Q: Are there any preliminary findings you would like to share?

A: We have been excited to see a significant improvement in sleep efficiency and sleep time for the participants in the exercise group compared to the no exercise group.

To learn more about Parkinson’s research visit

Research Round Up
Fri, 04/27/2018
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